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Bay View Park, Alpena
The latest installment of my Travelogue is up, for those of my readers who are fans. Please click the link on my Travelogue page. The picture here is my favorite of the bunch. It was taken at Bay View Park in Alpena. Enjoy!

Resolutions Revisited

Another new year is fast approaching and like many of you my thoughts turn to resolutions for that new year. Except my resolution for the new year is to continue with the resolutions I set back in 2012. Back in 2012 I made four resolutions:

1. Relearn to crochet
2. Start and finish sewing projects
3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf
4. Start writing again

So, two years later, how am I doing with my resolutions?

1. Relearn to crochet. As you saw from my post, “One Down”, back in July of this year I completed my first new crochet project in years: a lap blanket. It “only” took me a year and a half to complete!

The next two crochet projects on my “To Do” list include a cover for my Kindle and kitchen towel toppers. Thanks to my cousin Nancy for passing along a crochet pattern book that includes the pattern for those towel toppers!

2. Start and finish sewing projects. Technically, this cross-stitch project (below) was lumped in as a sewing project, even though it’s not what one normally thinks of as sewing. Although… it does use a needle and thread!

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse Cross-stitch
This has since been framed and is waiting to be hung in our downstairs bathroom once the renovations are complete. If you’d like to see pictures of the real Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, visit my 2009 travelogue post here.

My future sewing project list includes slipcovers for the cushions on my rocking chair in the living room, a pillow for when I do yoga (if I lie on the ground without my head raised, I get very dizzy), and a book cover (yes, even though I have a Kindle, I love to read paper books too!).

3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf. Hmm… Well… 2013 didn’t seem to be a good year for this. Judging from my reading list here, I seem to have read more newly-acquired books than books that were already on my bookshelf. I’ll try to do better in 2014.

4. Start writing again. As any of my regular readers know, this one slipped right through the cracks in 2013. My last post was in July 2013 (and even before that, my posts were sporadic). In mid-July 2013 I was appointed to Chair the Welcome Committee for our homeowners association. I assumed the role after the previous Chair could no longer fulfill her term due to personal issues. I had no idea that, even with a volunteer helping sometimes, I would spend so much time on this endeavor. As a result, my spare time has been greatly reduced and so has the time I have to spend reading, contemplating, and writing about my thoughts. Although I am happy that the Board had the confidence in me to do this job and I am pleased that I was able to organize and bring up to date some aspects of the administrative end of this job in such a short period of time, I do miss having the time to write. Perhaps when my term expires in 2016, that pull to have the time to read, contemplate, and write will be stronger and I will pass the baton on to the next Welcome Chair knowing that I have hopefully made a positive difference in the neighborhood during my tenure and that I have left my successor with more efficient systems to do his or her job going forward.

A Common Language

Image

“Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries.” — Jimmy Carter

Photo by Joyce Simkin, Along the trails at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, Michigan, July 6, 2013.

One Down

Joyce's Crocheted Blanket 2013

One of my 2012 New Year’s resolutions was to re-learn to crochet. One of my on-going resolutions is to declutter. Combining the two when faced with a skein of yarn I didn’t know what to do with, I decided to crochet a blanket (fully aware that I would have to buy more skeins of yarn… one skein turned into four). The result is the lap blanket you see to the right. And, some left-over yarn that I will probably end up donating to the Arts & Scraps organization.

One project down, many more to go. Perhaps my next creative endeavor will be a cross-stitch project I bought a couple of years ago in Alpena, Michigan.

Note: click on the picture if you want to see more detail.

27c

I watched with reverence and fear. In that instant I was convinced that Jacobo Belbo was right. What he told me about the Pendulum I had attributed to esthetic raving, to the shapeless cancer taking gradual shape in his soul, transforming the game into reality without his realizing it. But if he was right about the Pendulum, perhaps all the rest was true as well: the Plan, the Universal Plot. And in that case I had been right to come here, on the eve of the summer solstice.

This quote is from Umberto Eco’s book Foucault’s Pendulum. Interesting that I too, this year, came to Foucault’s Pendulum on the eve of the summer solstice. No light summer reading for me this year… I’ll be curled up with Umberto Eco’s book and a dictionary.

The picture above is from our trip to the Besser Museum in Alpena in June 2012. They have a Foucault Pendulum in the basement.

The blog post I wrote yesterday, and posted earlier today, can, in a way, be summed up by this quote that appeared on my calendar today:

Recognizing and confronting our history is important. Transcending our history is essential. We are not limited by what we have done, or what we have left undone. We are limited only by what we are willing to do.
— George W. Bush

In my attempts to de-clutter my e-mail (a monumental undertaking since I’m an e-mail hoarder!), I came across this sage advice. Maybe hoarding e-mail is not so bad after-all…?

A little background. This is part of an e-mail I wrote to a then-pen pal of mine. Most of my life I’ve lived in Michigan. When I wrote this I was in New Jersey. I moved there after I became engaged to a man who lived in New Jersey. I originally met him on an online dating service. I went to visit him and his family in May 2000. He came to visit me and my family in October 2000. That’s when he proposed. I moved to New Jersey in December 2000.

Before I took the leap and got on that plane to move out there, I wrote this poem:

The Road of Life
We all walk down
the road of life
blindly
having faith
that through the
twists and turns
and forks in the road
the path we choose
will lead our souls
to an ultimate happiness
unbounded.

In March 2001, my fiancé broke off the engagement.

This e-mail excerpt was written in June 2001.

The e-mail to my then-pen pal (later we dated some when I got back to Michigan) was an attempt at a “get to know me/my family/where I’m coming from” kinda thing. A previous paragraph expressed the negativity of my family after they learned of our relationship (my then-pen pal was Brazilian-American, but as far as my family was concerned he was a “dirty Mexican” Sigh!). Another paragraph expressed the attempts by my ex to give me dating advice. (Yes, really!)

Here’s the (edited) excerpt:

Before, yes, I was the type to cave in to my family and did what they thought I should do and think. After all, when you get negativity all your life, you think that your feelings and ideas don’t matter. But, getting away from that, and living on my own, and handling xxxx, and the rest on my own gave me a re-newed sense of self-confidence and self-esteem. I took my life into my own hands, and well, I did pretty good, if you look beyond the narrow “xxxx’s a jerk and I was crazy for falling in love with him” thing. (Which I know that most of my family members can’t see past.) xxxx was a means to an end. An end that I can’t get to if the detour didn’t take me away from my family and to New Jersey. I truly believe that. And truly, my heart, God, and my life took me here. It’s not like I’m starving, it’s not like I’m homeless, it’s not like I’m penniless, and I still have a secure job*. Like I’ve been saying all along, I gained much more in the walking of the path, than I would’ve by staying cooped up, miserable and alone, …. And, even if no-one else in my family sees it, I know that I am a better person for all that’s happened and that I shouldn’t be afraid of wisely following my heart.

I was reading in my Oprah Magazine an article that expresses my past year’s life so “right on the nose” so to speak. It’s amazing. It even brings up those people in the author’s life that criticized her for following her heart and taking a risk, and she brings up some pretty good perspective on the matter. She writes:

“Whatever your circumstance, people will start to give you advice as soon as you disturb the status quo. That advice is likely to be bad. It will be bad because they are seeking not to understand and further your calling but to preserve the world as they know it. And yet, in the midst of the shouting and the falling masonry you will know with an unusual quietness that it is happening in the only way that it can, and that whichever way it turns out, no matter what suffering you endure, it will be all right. There in the midst of the cyclone, is the peace that passes understanding.”

She also says that … if you try to tend to your needs, you are looked on as selfish. (That was [a certain family member’s] argument for me not moving out here, that I was being selfish). But, I agree with this statement she says: “Far from being a display of selfishness, this is the most compassionate act you can do for anyone: to stand by the truth of your own life and live it as fully and passionately as you are able.”

This is actually the entire poem that she wrote, which brought tears to my eyes, because this literally is my life. And, it began that day that I stepped on the plane for the first time in May 2000:

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But, little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

*Thanks to Monique and Arsen for letting me follow my heart!

And, thank you to my friends who stood by me throughout it all!

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